FOX19 Investigates: Is privatization of streetcar funding a feasible plan?

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - So is private funding for the streetcar a feasible plan? FOX19 took a closer look at the numbers.

The forecasted annual operating costs for the streetcar is $3.5 to 4.5 million dollars. The federal government will only commit financially to the project on the condition it operates for at least 25 years. When you do the math, that's anywhere from $87.5 million to $112.5 million.

So who can come up with that kind of money in just seven days?

"There are conversations with significant players in town that have enormous resources that are open to a conversation," Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said.

Cranley mentioned the Haile Foundation, set up in memory of Ralph and Carole Haile. While FOX19's calls to foundation administrators weren't returned, the Haile Foundation's website states it's dedication to "strengthen urban neighborhoods."

In a tweet sent out shortly after Mayor Cranley's announcement, the Haile Foundation said:

"Appreciate @JohnCranley willingness to help find a solution for #cincystreetcar operating funds. We can figure this out."

The administrator for the Nippert Foundation says they haven't been approached about the project.

A spokesperson for the Rosenthal Foundation says they aren't supporters of the streetcar.

Opponents say funding the project will take people with deep pockets, who are willing to commit today to keep the project on its rails for at least 25 years.

"I would say they have to put the 80 million dollars on the table.  That's the only way we can be sure it's going to be here when the time comes and that 25th year comes along," said Tim Mara, an attorney who lives in Over the Rhine who opposes the streetcar.

But streetcar proponents close to the plan say that's not how this will work.  They believe it will take a multi-prong approach, with an estimated $1 million from ticket fares, funds raised from advertising in, on and around the streetcar, federal and state funds already committed to the project and private funds.

Streetcar proponent Ryan Messer won't name names, but says the private funds would come from a combination of private individuals and foundations, all working together on a tight deadline.  The current federal deadline for the streetcar is December 19.

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